Yemen's Houthis claim targeting nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi with missile attack, UAE denies

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Yemen's Houthi group has fired a cruise missile towards a nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the group's television service reported on its website on Sunday, without providing any evidence.

The United Arab Emirates' state-run news agency WAM denied the claim, saying that the country also had air-defense systems capable of protecting it.

The Iran-aligned Houthis control much of northern Yemen and had said Abu Dhabi, a member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting against them since 2015, was a target for their missiles.

"The missile force announces the launching of a winged cruise missile ... towards the al-Barakah nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi," the website said. It gave no further details.

The $20 billion worth Barakah project is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). The first of its four reactors, being built in the UAE near its border with Saudi Arabia, is scheduled to come online in 2018.

It is the second time this year the Houthis have said they have fired missiles towards the UAE. A few months ago they said they had "successfully" test fired a missile towards Abu Dhabi.

Houthis last month targeted the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with a ballistic missile that was intercepted by Saudi air defenses. It was the deepest strike inside the kingdom since the clashes began in 2015, after Houthis overran Sanaa and much of the country and forced the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Sunday's claim comes amid heavy fighting in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, where the Houthis are facing off with fighters loyal to the country's former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the fifth straight day of street fighting as the alliance between the two unravels.

On Saturday, the Houthi group accused the UAE of backing former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose forces have been battling rebels for control of the capital Sanaa.

The Houthis have accused Saleh of striking deals with the Saudi-led coalition, which has been waging an air campaign against the Houthi-Saleh alliance for nearly three years.

Since the recent clashes erupted, the Saudi coalition has been targeting the Houthis and backing Saleh's camp to control Sanaa. The UAE is an active member of the coalition and its forces have mostly focused on securing the southern region of Yemen.

At least 100 Emirati soldiers have been killed in the war, which was launched to dislodge the Houthis from Sanaa after they overran the capital and kicked out the internationally-backed Yemeni government from power.

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of supplying Houthis with missiles, including the one used to target Riyadh on Nov. 4. Both the Houthis and Iran deny the claim.

Iran, meanwhile, has close trade ties with the UAE. In November, Iranian authorities ordered a two-day ban on a hardline Iranian newspaper after it ran a headline saying the UAE's tourism hub of Dubai was the "next target" for Yemen's Houthi rebels.

The UAE on Sunday was celebrating its 46th National Day with a four-day-long public sector holiday.

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